The debate surrounding the legitimacy of eSports as a sport is over.
That’s according to Twitch COO Kevin Lin, who told Games Industry that: “Anyone who’s still concerned with legitimacy needs to move on, because it’s here. And it’s here to stay.
“The first couple years, between 2010 and 2012, there was a lot of that search, that desire to be compared with a sport. But over the last few years, because the audience has tuned in and everybody’s paying attention from the advertisers on down, it’s not really so much a search for legitimacy any more. It’s just a search for growth. That’s what people are aspiring to now. The legitimacy problem, in my opinion, is gone.”
The challenge eSports does face, Lin then argues, is one of sutainable funding.
“How do you fund these events? How do you fund the prize money or pay for player travel?” he asked. “Right now a lot of that hinges on sponsorships, ad revenue, subscriptions, and in some games there’s the opportunity to create in-game items that can help fund it, but it’s tough.
“It’s really tough going for a lot of these guys. One of the big things that will happen this year, and has been happening over the last couple years is bigger and bigger sponsors are coming in to help build that foundation. Hopefully sponsors start to respond, especially big non-endemics, start to pay attention, realise this is a great audience for their brand, realise it’s an interesting and growing cultural phenomenon, and that they begin to embrace that. That will really help boost the scene.”
Many eSports fans might perhaps argue that cheating and scandal is instead eSports’ current largest threats. Barely a week passes without a fresh controversy, with one recent scandal alleging that a Hearthstone player wasn’t even who they claimed to be.
“Every sport is not without its own scandal,” Lin argued. “You look at traditional sports and they’ve got doping issues. They’ve got match fixing issues too. They have scandals around refs and whether they’re actually being non-biased. It’s just going to happen in a growing industry like this.
“So is match-fixing a problem? Absolutely it’s a problem. And it’s just going to take maturity of the scene. It’s going to take everybody in that scene wanting to drive toward legitimacy to push that. It’s going to involve the game companies, the players, the team owners, the leagues. They’re all going to have to say, ‘Look, we want to create something here, and every time something like this happens, it really takes us a step back. So how do we all move forward together?’ And it’s going to take a lot of coordination from all parties to do that.”